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Kenshin watched silently as Megumi entered Kaoruís room. His head and ears still rang with Kaoruís words: "I donít know what he sees in me eitherÖI donít think he sees anything in meÖ" Her voice was very bitter as she said those words. He would have never expected her to say that. It was totally uncharacteristic of her. She was usually willing to battle Megumi for Kenshin at any cost. Now, as Sano had said, she was practically giving him up for Megumi. Kenshin had been suprised at first, then horrified. I wonder what made Kaoru-donno say that, what is going on in her mind?
† "Ö. he had proven it several times.." Had he? He cared deeply for Kaoru and he thought it showed, especially when he left for Kyoto. Stop kidding yourself. You know exactly what she means And he did. What she meant was that although he showed that he did care for her, it was not the way she wanted him to. When she said that she didnít mean anything to him, she meant intimately.

Honestly, when he thought about it, he couldnít argue with what she said. He didnít know if he had those feelings for her, if he can or ever will. It had nothing to do with Kaoru. It was about him. Could I ever indulge in those feelings, for another woman? Another thing he couldnít argue with was what she said about Megumi, and how she would be better for him. She was right. It was easier to picture himself with Megumi. As Kaoru had said, she was closer to his age. Whoa, where did that come from From Kaoru? He wasnít so sureÖKaoru is, no, Kaoru was...

Sano was also searching for answers. What the hell is wrong with Jo-chan? Has she lost it completely? The only other time Kaoru had put herself down in comparison to Megumi was when she got drunk. And why the hell did she have to go on and on about Megumi and Kenshin? Sano was pissed, to say the least. He glanced at Kenshin who was deep in thought. Does Kaoru know something about those two that I donít? , he wondered. Sano thought about it so much, he got a headache. He really didnít know why, but he felt so angry at Megumi. He couldnít help feeling that she was happy. An irrational part of his brain even wondered briefly if Megumi somehow willed Kaoru to say what she did. Okay Sagara, you are really losing it now. All this is messing up your head. He wondered briefly at what Megumi was doing now. She had only been there for a couple of minutes but already he was getting anxious and impatient. He nudged Kenshin. "Oi, what gave you the idea that Kaoruís ribs were broken?" Kenshin merely looked at him and gave him a sad smile that said he would rather do anything other than answer Sano. But, Sano wasnít about to back down. He had enough mysteries to last him a lifetime, thanks to Kaoru. From now on, he wasnít gonna accept anything but answers.

"Well? How did you know." Kenshin looked away from Sano and stared at Kaoruís door, in front of him.

"I ran into her in the woods, while I was looking for her. She tried to run away from me when I tried to talk to her. I thenÖ" Kenshin stopped, not really knowing how to continue, partly because he was embarrassed, and partly because he didnít know how Sano would take it.† ".. Trying to stop her, I put my arm around her waist. In doing so, I brushed her ribs and I must have hurt her because she clutched them in pain." Sano noticed that Kenshinís nervous tone, changed to a traumatized one. Kuso, he thought, becoming even more anxious. Hurry up Megumi, will you

Megumi, had just finished cleaning the cut on Kaoruís chin. She didnít stitch it after all, deciding that all the stitches would do is leave scars. Next would be the hard part. She had to check Kaoruís ribs. She was very reluctant. She was afraid for Kaoru and of what she would find. Finally, she parted Kaoruís Kimono from her waist to her rib cage. What she saw made her eyes go round, her mouth dropping open at the same time and a horrified cry escaped her lips. She opened the kimono some more to get a better view, and then wished she hadnít. Her hands started to shake, and so did the rest of her. A chill ran through her. She felt cold, so cold, and angry, and afraid, more than anything else, she was terrified. "Kaoru, what did you do to deserve this?" she whispered as she raised her hands to her head and started pulling her hair in frustration, tears of pain and fury in her eyes. Kenshin! She had to get Kenshin. He had to see this. She got up and hurried out the room where she knew Kenshin was waiting. Kenshin looked up in surprise when he saw her. He opened his mouth but before he could say anything, Megumi grabbed his arm. Sano looked at her, bewildered. All Megumi said was "Kenshin you have to see this!" She pulled him into Kaoruís room, and near Kaoruís bed. She then pointed at something, and watched his expression go from horror, to pain, to sadness, to anger. Fiery anger as he took in Kaoruís sight. As he took in the sight of her pale skin, scarred with whip burns. Kaoru had been whipped. She had been whipped long and hard. So long, and so hard, that the whip had cut into her skin, leaving deep open wounds. Wounds that were all over her body.

Kenshinís vision became blurred. He saw red. The red of Kaoruís gashes, the red of the pain she had went through. He became blind with rage. He was consumed by anger. He couldnít breathe. Megumi noticed the change in him. It was so sudden it scared her. She glanced at Sano, wondering if he noticed it as well. But, Sano only had eyes for Kaoru. He just gazed at her until his eyes glazed over. He was furious! Whoever did this to Kaoru was going to suffer. Sano thought of how much fun he would have beating the crap out of the guy. Megumi looked back and forth, from Kenshin to Sano. A chill ran up her spine. She knew from their faces that the guy who hurt Kaoru didnít have very long to live. As much as she wanted revenge for Kaoru, it scared her to see Kenshin forget all his peaceful principles.† It scared her to death.

Kaoruís thoughts were running all over her head. Sleep was like a torture chamber. For in her sleep, her dreams haunted her. This time however, the dreams were worse than usual. Unlike most other times, the dream didnít show her getting beat up all over again, nor did it show Kenshin and her friends anguished faces. No, this time, she dreamed of Kenshin. He was fighting with someone, she couldnít tell who, but he was fighting so viciously. He kept charging at his opponent. She was there, screaming at him to stop. But, no matter what she said, she couldnít stop their fight. It was like a replay of his fight with Saitoh. Only, it was more intense, and more horrifying. She couldnít stand watching. Wake up! Wake up! she commanded herself. She had to escape. She tried to wake up, but she couldnít. Something held her back. What is going on?! Why canít I wake up! She could feel herself becoming hysterical. The fight between Kenshin and the stranger got more and more heated. They were tearing at each other. Blood was everywhere. It splashed on her, in her eyes, in her hair. It seeped into her mouth. She could smell it, taste it. The bittersweet aroma engulfing her, suffocating her. She called out to Kenshin, begging for him to stop fighting. He didnít hear her. He was too intent on his fight. She might as well not been there. But, why? Why couldnít he see what his fighting was doing to her? With each slash of his sword, she became more covered with blood, even if he didnít spill any. Each stroke splashed more blood on her, until it formed a tidal pool around her. Now, each stroke pulled her in more. Kaoru screamed at Kenshin to stop. She watched, helplessly as Kenshin fought on. His red hair flowed around him like fire. Desperate cries came out of her blood soaked lips. They were all wasted. She was being pulled in more and more. Her face, wet with tears and blood.

*Why canít I wake up? Please! Someone, help me!!!*

Kenshin and Sano were woke up from their angry trances by Kaoru. She was writhing violently, shaking. Sweat poured down her face.

"Megumi-san, what wrong with Kaoru-donno?"

"I donít know," she said, panicking.

" Che, youíre the doctor, Ms. foxy! If you donít know then who would?" This started a brawl between the two. Kenshin ignored them, focusing all his attention on Kaoru. Her fists were clenching and unclenching. She was biting her lips so hard they bled. Tears were streaming down her face. And all he could do was watch. Suddenly, she screamed out his name. Her voice was desperate, full of pain and anguish. This stopped Megumi and Sano.

"My god! She must be having a nightmare! Now of all times! We have to wake her up!," Megumi cried. Kaoru kept screaming Kenshinís name over and over. Kenshin didnít know what to do.

"Kenshin! Help me!!!," she screamed.

"Iím here Kaoru-donno! Iím right here!"

"KUSO!!," Sano cursed, "Isnít there anything we can do!"

Kaoru looked like she was experiencing hell on earth. She kept screaming for Kenshin to help her. And her shaking increased. Megumi, not knowing what else to do, sent Sano for some ice. Although Kaoru didnít have a fever, she was burning up. Sano left, glad for being able to do something to help. Kenshin meanwhile, tried to keep Kaoru from hurting herself. She was pulling at her hair and clawing at her face frantically, all the while screaming for Kenshin to help her. He, in turn, kept repeating that he was there. Megumi tried to wake her up but to no avail. She started crying out of frustration and sorrow. She caught Kenshinís eyes. She thought they were glistening, but she wasnít sure. He looked at her in anguish. All they could do was watch Kaoru suffer.

Kaoru was now up to her waist in blood. Kenshin was still fighting. His back was to her. She couldnít see his face. She was exhausted. It took all her strength to hold herself up against the waves of blood. Her throat felt as if it was on fire from screaming so hard. She had to do something. She didnít have much long before Kenshin drowned her with the blood he kept spilling on her. She was going to get out of there, she decided. She started to walk against the thick whirlpool around her. And, she made her way towards Kenshin. Her attempts hardly made any difference. As she raised her foot to walk, the blood pushed her back to where she was. Her energy was draining so fast. But she was determined and kept trying to move forward. However, the whirlpool was getting higher and higher, which meant she had to double her efforts every step of the way. She didnít even know if she would be able to reach Kenshin before the blood drowned her. So, as she went, she hoped that Kenshin might turn around and see her.† But, something told her that that wouldnít happen. Still, she continued. Slowly, bit by bit, she moved forward. She was getting closer. The blood was now up to her chest, but she kept moving forward. She suddenly became aware of how hot the blood was; it was scalding! Ignoring it, she continued, determined to stop Kenshinís fight, not because it was killing her, but because she was afraid he would get killed. His fights were usually very short. The fact that this fight was longer meant that he was fighting someone very strong.

I made it! She was now less than ten yards away from them. The blood reached her neck, it was boiling, burning. But now, nothing mattered. She finally reached Kenshin. She would stop him from fighting. When he stopped, he would help her. The blood would go away, and everything will be okay. She continued forward, now, she started calling out to him. He didnít hear her, instead, he charged once more at his opponent. His opponent blocked the attack. He was breathing heavily and seemed to be very tired. Then, when he charged to attack Kenshin for the last time, Kaoru saw his face, and stopped dead in her tracks. Stopped calling out to Kenshin. She couldnít believe what she was seeing. No! It canít be! She closed her eyes, hoping that when she opened them the face would change. It didnít. "SonaÖ sonaÖ" (sona=canít be) she said as her feet gave way from underneath her. She couldnít fight the blood anymore. All her reserve and energy drained out of her. As she sank in the hot waves of blood, she raised her eyes one last time to look at Kenshin. He was finishing off his opponent. She reached out to him, hoping that now the fight was over, he would see her, she cried out to him, but he just flicked off the blood from his sword and walked way. Kaoruís arm dropped. "Youíre right to leave Kenshin," she said. Her tears fell hot and mixed with the blood, staining her face. "Itís probably better this way." These last words barely escaped before the blood completely covered her.†

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